From Wood To Ash: Filling And Emptying Your Fire Pit With The Right Fuel In Mind

Posted on: 25 August 2015

Once you have the green light to start using your outdoor fire pit, you'll want to start experimenting with the various types of fires made from wood found in your area. You'll also need a way to dispose of all of the wood ash you'll create as a by-product of all those cozy flames. Here's what you need to know:

Choose firewood that gives you the heat you need.

The branches from hardwood trees contain more potential BTUs of heat energy than the branches of softwood trees. If you're going for a hot fire on a cold night, use seasoned hardwoods like oak, maple and birch. Another benefit of hardwood logs is the low degree of smoke they produce, which is helpful if you want to stand close to the fire in frigid temperatures.

If you want a fire for the ambiance, but don't need long-term heat, burn softwoods like white pine, ash, or spruce. Wood logs from these trees will produce more smoke when burned, but they make an easy, fast-burning flame perfect for shorter fires on warm nights.

Remember that wood smoke adds flavor.

If you'll be cooking food over your fire pit, be aware that some woods will add wonderful flavors to fire-roasted food, but other woods may make food taste bitter or piney. Hickory and mesquite are great choices for pork and beef, whether you're roasting or smoking the meat, while lilac and cedar impart wonderful flavors to your seafood dishes.

Many types of fruiting wood, from apple trees to grapevines, are excellent cooking fuels, but avoid using firs and most pines for fire pit roasting. They tend to give off medicinal flavors, and their sparky natures often send cinders into the cooking food.

Use ashes for bugs, pH, and potassium.

Once ashes have cooled enough to safely remove them from the fire pit, don't throw them away. They will help you a great deal around the garden.

The salt in the ashes is deadly to soft-bodied insects such as snails and slugs, so stir some into the dirt around plants that are under attack. Sprinkle ashes around your home's foundation if you have problems with soft-bodied insects getting into your basement or crawl spaces.

Wood ashes are alkaline, so they increases the pH of very acidic soils. Many grasses, annual flowers, and vegetables appreciate a higher pH, especially if you have clay soil. Of course, you'll want to have your soil tested by your extension agent, or analyze it yourself with a home kit first, to be sure your soil needs the ashes, but it's a great no-cost way to improve your landscaping.

A soil test will also reveal if your garden needs potassium, another benefit of wood ashes. It's best to compost or age the wood ashes before applying them to large areas, since fresh ashes may burn young or tender plants. Once the ashes have mellowed a bit, apply ½ lb. for every bush or for each square yard of garden space, and use 10 to 15 lbs. of ashes per 1,000 square yards of lawn.

For more information, contact a company like Alpine Fireplaces.